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Take control of your PDFs with Preview (Vol #20)

Inside: Moving pages, installing Pages, Preview

Is November really over in just a week? I started the month with a leisurely trip to my grandmother’s 94th birthday party in Oregon, where I observed that everything is leisurely in Oregon! I’ve never seen so many people drive under the speed limit, with no traffic to blame. But by the end of the trip I too was driving at a more relaxed pace, taking in all the gorgeous scenery.

Upon returning home, the normal hectic pace reappeared as my son worked feverishly on numerous college application essays, and I filled out a 20-page college financial aid form. That led to this article and video…

Take control of your PDFs

The colleges of course wanted to me to send my recent tax return as a single PDF file. I had pieces of the return scattered across three PDF files (unsigned return “printed” from tax software, signed page two, scanned W-2), so I was relieved to learn that the Preview application made it easy to merge these files just how I wanted. See how I did it in the video in this article.

How to move pages between PDFs in Preview

The App Store to the rescue

Not only have I been shuffling pages in Preview lately, but I also had to install Pages (with a capital P). Pages is the word processing application that is part of the iWork package. A friend sent me a document created using Pages but I didn’t have the application since I always use Microsoft Word.

Fortunately, not only was I able to download Pages from the Mac App Store, but I was able to buy it separately, instead of buying the whole iWork package as I’d have to do if I walked into an Apple Store.

If you haven’t taken a virtual stroll through the Mac App Store, there’s now a large selection of applications there and some are free. See how easy it is to purchase, download, and install from the App Store in this video and article.

How to install Pages from the App Store

Word of the Week

The word is “Preview”.

Preview is humble application that comes with Mac OS X. I say humble because this little app does a lot more than just “preview”. Unless you’ve changed some system settings, Preview is the application your Mac will use to display PDF files as well as numerous types of graphics files (like JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs, …). But Preview also gives you some basic editing features too. As you can tell in the first article and video above, I continue to be amazed with the features I keep finding in Preview.

As I often tell Mom and other Mac Help For Mom readers, a great way to learn what you can do with an application is to browse through the menus and hover your cursor over anything that looks like a button. A good place to start is in the View menu, where you can often display numerous toolbars that might be hidden. In Preview’s View menu, try “Show Toolbar”, “Show Annotations Toolbar”, and “Sidebar > Show Sidebar”. (Note: Whenever you see a menu item with a “>”, it means to go a level down, so this means “Show Sidebar” within the “Sidebar” submenu.) Turning on the various toolbars will give you a quick visual way to see many of the available functions.

The functions available will depend on what file type you are viewing. Some functions like “Tools > Adjust Color” only work on graphics files, whereas applying a highlighter effect to selected text only makes sense for a PDF file (and only will depend on how the PDF was created).

Still other capabilities like dragging and dropping pages between PDFs (as I demonstrated in the article mentioned above) aren’t found anywhere in the menus or toolbars. Like many features of your Mac, you can find them by continuing to ask “I wonder if it will let me do this…” Often your Mac will answer back, “of course I’ll let you do that!”

So be bold. Not sure what a button or menu option does? Click it and find out! You can always undo your actions (Edit > Undo menu option or Command-Z). If you get really carried away and mess up a document or image, you can always revert to the original (File > Revert to Saved…). Or just close the window and answer “Don’t Save” so that your original file isn’t modified.

After a little experimenting, go impress your friends with all the new tricks you’ve learned. The best way to really learn something is to teach someone else.

Giving Thanks

If you’re in the U.S., I wish you a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. If you’re in Canada, make that a six week belated wish. Regardless of where you are, thanks for reading and watching Mac Help For Mom videos.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • LucyInDisguise December 4, 2011, 7:20 am

    I really feel a need to thank you for this thing with the PDF files. This has saved me so much time and effort.

    Well, as far as that goes, thanks for all you’re doing here. You have helped me take even greater advantage of this platform. So good.

    Soooo gooood.

    Elko NV

    • Steve December 4, 2011, 8:53 am

      Hi Lucy, thank you so much for your comment. Saving time and effort is the name of the game. I’m always looking for ways to shave a few keystrokes or mouse drags here and there. The savings add up and then leave me (and hopefully you) with more time for the fun stuff.

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